I loved drawing and I knew I could give it, at least, a decent shot. As my teacher came around the room she saw my drawing in progress and patted my shoulder. With a big smile she said, "You are a natural artist." I was on top of the world! I wanted to be an artist and I practiced drawing all of the time! This praise was wonderful!
However, I remember the looks on the faces of the kids at my table. They just seemed to wilt right there. Their drawings didn't look like mine and in fact, none of our drawings looked like each other's. That is the beauty of drawing but we didn't know that. I was just the kid who was complimented. From that moment on, I confidently would proclaim that "I am artistic! I am creative!" and this was affirmed over and over again. It was affirmed so much that it made me want to practice even more, so my skills improved which brought on more affirmation.
What happened to my counterparts at the table? Well, I have seen a few of them over the years and none of them are practicing any sort of art and two of them told me they are "not the least bit creative."
After years of studying psychology and working with youth and adults, it has struck me that from a very early age people are given the chance to claim a lie. The very first moment in an art class (or elsewhere) when someone gave you feedback...THAT was the moment when 80% of people decided they were artistic or not. Sometimes, it isn't even the feedback. Of course, if your friend tells you that you are bad at drawing, that is one way to pick up the lie. But there is another way too..
This way happens in the silence. When one kid is complimented and no one says anything about your work. Or you bring that first painting home and your mom doesn't put it on the fridge or frame it... these are the moments when the lie starts to sink in and feels a lot like truth.
The worst part is, this lie comes before you are even old enough to really discover just how creative you are and stops you in your tracks for good. I have met so many people that won't even try to paint or draw because they "already know they can't do it."
This is the most heartbreaking lapse in our strange and wonderful educations. The system has been formulated so certain types of artwork "count" as "good" art. Then the people with that style or those skills receive the praise as "artists" or "creatives".
But here is the real truth- WE ARE ALL ARTISTS. I believe that we were created by a Creator who created us to create! Scripture says that we are made in God's image and God is the most incredible creator, period. All of our creations are Divine and they are all connected to the Spirit.
For me, painting is something that connects me to God. It really is my prayer language, it is a practice that I long for and that keeps me rooted to the Spirit. I am nourished and fed through the PRACTICE. The outcome of my paintings isn't as important as the process of BEING part of the experience of creating them.
To watch the colors dance across the page organically, or to shape them intuitively with brushes and sponges is the most therapeutic and freeing experience of my day. I want to share this with people! The physical practice of creating art (or anything!) is a gesture that ties us to the Spiritual act of transformation. Creating ties us deeply to abundance and provision. It connects us to the Divine within our own bodies and souls.
I believe this so fully that I am working on designing a workshop that I will call "Painted Prayers". I want to share this practice with anyone who is interested in experiencing art in a whole new light. I am going to create a sacred space where you can lose yourself in the flow of creativity and connect to the Holy as the colors and shapes unfold across a page or a canvas.
No one will need to know any skills. No one will need to confidently claim any sort of truths about their creative or artistic ability. They simply need an open mind and a hunger to connect to something more. I truly believe the fruit of your painted-prayer life will release the artist who God planted there a long time ago; silenced by the silence in first grade.
Will you join me for my Painted Prayer Workshop this fall?